The formula describing how to best sell your own car is an equation with a lot of variables, especially in challenging times.
Many of us trade in one car when we purchase a new one from a dealer; many of us wonder if the trade-in amount is fair. There are several ways to ascertain what the worth of your used car is, but you have to remember you can’t have it all.
Your car actually has two values: wholesale and retail. A dealer is going to give you a version of wholesale, and if they keep it in their stock, will sell it for retail. That margin is where they make their profit and cover company overheads, as well as the costs of prepping it, cleaning it and bringing it mechanically up to date. They may also unload it at auction.
There are a lot of tools at your disposal to determine what your car is worth. Many sites like AutoTrader, VMR and Canadian Black Book have built-in calculators that let you to drop in your information and send you back your vehicle’s approximate value. Why approximate? Most people believe their car is in excellent shape — many of those people are wrong.
Get ready for the sale
John Raymond is an automotive consultant. He offers a good overview of how to get ready to sell your car.
Clean your car up. A professional detail is a good idea.
Consider your timing. The best time to sell a convertible is in the spring; if you’re throwing in a set of winter tires, make sure you highlight that.
Browse sellers’ sites for cars like yours in your region. Compare condition and mileage. This will give you a range to work from.
In Ontario, you must have a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP). You can order it online or get it at the Ministry of Transportation for $20.
A Carfax report provides a buyer with more information about liens, crashes and odometer readings. Though either side can get one, as a seller it adds to your transparency. As a buyer, it’s an added layer of safety.
Dig out your service records. Proof of service will help you get closer to your asking price. Proof of how old the tires are can boost your price if they’re new, as can that new brake job. On the flip side, admit if the car is going to need a new set of tires in the coming months.
Get good photos
Photos. Take lots and lots of decent photos. If you’re lousy with a camera, get someone else to take them. Present your car in (literally) the best light, but also be honest about damage.
You’ve posted, and you have some reaction. Meet in a public place, not at your home, preferably in daytime. Bring someone with you. Do not hand your keys to someone.
If they want to pay an independent mechanic to get your car on the hoist, it makes sense for you to allow it. Nobody should buy a used car without doing this.
If you’ve made it this far and someone wants to buy your car, remember their interest could be conditional on them being able to secure a loan. In challenging economic times, this could lead to a deal falling through.
The safest way to accept payment is to go with the buyer to their bank for the transaction. Fraud is high, protect yourself.
Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants sighed when I asked him about private sales. “Trading in to a dealer is the safest, cleanest transaction,” he says. “Private sales have zero protection, a lot of disadvantages and a lot of scammers. Hidden accidents, speedometer rollbacks…” He sighed again but slightly switched gears.
“Consider the thing that sets prices in the used car market: supply and demand. There is a stunning amount of product in the market right now, which is pushing prices down around 15 per cent,” he surmises. You need to know what’s going on in the rest of the market to position where to sell your own vehicle or to decide whether to hold off on selling it altogether. We are living in unprecedented times.
Both DesRosiers and Brian Murphy, with Black Book Canada, note the importance of our rather weakened Canadian dollar. That is good for making our used cars attractive for export, which should help to backstop used car prices. The projected next two quarters for car sales will reveal an impact on the industry bigger than the collapse of 2008, but George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association (APA) concurs with their optimism.
“Used vehicle prices had been strong in Canada for some time; I believe that when current sales restrictions are removed, demand will come back more quickly than in 2008 as will prices,” says Iny. “Our low Canadian dollar will also favour the export of our more desirable used vehicles to the U.S., which creates scarcity in Canada.”
Iny notes two things to keep in mind. During “normal times,” the APA has a service that can appraise your car and direct you to a dealer who will give you a cash offer. But noting our current not-normal times, Iny has a message for anyone selling due to car payment panic: “The better and easier solution for financial pain relief is the payment holiday, of up to four months, on your lease or finance payment. It’s nearly automatic right now,” and offered by many manufacturers.
A thoroughly shaken up economy can work in your favour. With consumer confidence rocky, Canadian Black Book “remains optimistic that there is a high probability that older, less expensive vehicles in good conditions will not decline as much in price due to increased demand on those units.” There will be buyers who will be waiting to capitalize on new vehicles being hugely incentivized as the industry rights itself, but there will be many others looking for cheaper, reliable ways to batten down their budgets.
When it is safe to engage with each other again, prep your car, design your ad, price it right and protect yourself. A little time and effort could translate into extra cash.
Copyright PostMedia Network, 2020